From Publishers Weekly
The journey from isolation to connection in a semiapocalyptic Los Angeles is the subject of this blithely redemptive new novel by Homes (Things You Should Know
). Richard Novak is a day-trader wealthy enough to employ a housecleaner, nutritionist, decorator and personal trainer, but after he's taken to the hospital with a panic attack he realizes he has no one to call. Determined to change his life, but also stalked by strange circumstances (e.g., a sinkhole opens in his lawn), Richard makes extravagant gestures of goodwill toward various acquaintances, relatives and strangers. By the time his misguided altruistic adventures have become fodder for late-night TV jokes, Ben, the son he abandoned years ago in a divorce, arrives in town. Richard's tenuous and fraught reconnection with Ben is at the heart of his reclamation, but when it is complete the city of L.A. itself collapses, à la Mike Davis's City of Quartz
. Homes's stale cultural critique feels deliberate. She gradually undoes the ordered precision of Richard's Bobo paradise, and literally leaves him floating serenely on his kitchen tabletop in an "it's all good" sort of daze. But the cool distance she keeps from Richard's struggle, and the banal terms in which she articulates it, leave one with a much darker sense of the possibilities for being saved. (Apr.)
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Let's start with the good news for fans of A. M. Homes (Music for Torching
; The Safety of Objects
): it's not all bad. A few critics praised Homes's convincing characters, emotional immediacy, deadpan dialogue, and expert skewering of modern L.A. The San Francisco Chronicle
even compared Homes to Kurt Vonnegut (and Richard to Billy Pilgrim). Unfortunately, negative reviews prevailed. Critics described the characters, plot, and onerous moral about the prisons of our own making as cartoonish, clichéd, and tired. The Washington Post
sums up the sentiment: "If you're as isolated and disconnected as Richard, you'll find the details here surprising and hilarious, but otherwise, it's yesterday's news."<BR>Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.